July 28, 2010, 3:14 PM

Bookseller Biblio unveils a new look on its redesigned site

The new site features personalized recommendations and an improved shopping cart.

Online bookseller Biblio Inc. has launched a redesigned site with a vintage look, but Web 2.0 functionality.

The new site offers an improved shopping cart that allows customers to add items without leaving product pages. Customers can also now see personalized product recommendations based on their searches of the site’s inventory of about 50 million titles from a network of 5,500 independent booksellers. Since the site launched about a month ago, average time spent per session has increased 15% to 20%, the company says.

“We wanted to increase user engagement,” says CEO Brendan Sherar. “Before, you would go and search a book such as Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and the site would blandly list copies to purchase and that would be the extent of information that it would show customers. But now we make an attempt to give other ideas of books that they would be interested in. That’s contributed to session length.”

To redesign the site, Biblio conducted research to identify the site’s problem areas including usability testing from testing company UserTesting.com. UserTesting.com gives retailers screen and audio commentary recorded by its registered testers visiting a web site. The retailer can set the parameters, offer a particular scenario or goal for a visitor and pick the target user. Each test session costs $39.

During the testing, Biblio, No. 367 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, learned that visitors were unsure about what Biblio offered and confused it with a library, Sherar says.

“It goes back to what we suspected that we needed to address and—a little bit more humbling—that we learned people’s confusion about what our site is, what are products are and what is our value proposition,” he says.

Also new to the site is a feature on the home page allowing customers to scroll through books picked by Biblio’s staff. For example, Sherar’s pick is Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis.

“A lot of us come from a traditional bricks-and-mortar bookstores where we learned that you can’t convince customers to buy, but we just want to show them interesting things that they may have thought about,” Sherar says. “And, it puts a personal face on the site.”

The company plans to schedule next week the same type of benchmark testing that it conducted before the redesign to better understand how the site is performing.

Once any changes are made, Biblio plans to initiate new paid marketing as well as an integrated marketing strategy to include social media.

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